Opportunity for villagers to grow greens, earn money for survival
LUCKNOW: And now, for some good that came out of the lockdown.
Acchey Lal, 65, walks from his village Rigwa Bujurg, in Hamirpur to river Betwa daily to collect the vegetables he planted on the river banks and transports them to nearby Orai town in Jalaun district.
Two months back people were not permitted to plant fruits and vegetables, or collect sand from the river banks. The state mining department had floated bids for sand mining, and the contractors and their henchmen who got the bid, had unleashed a reign of terror in the area. Residents of nearby villages who moved near the river were chased away and even beaten, Lal said.
The scenario changed after the implementation of the nationwide lockdown on March 25 and the district administration banning mining activities. The contractors and their henchmen, who came from distant places, had to move out with their machines, tractors and trucks, he said.
The natives of the nearby villages saw an opportunity and moved adjacent to the river, where there is ample water and the soil is fertile. “We planted a variety of vegetables and crops. Within a month, the vegetables are ready for sale in the market. During the lockdown, when jobs are scarce, villagers, a majority of them landless, daily-wage workers, are earning livelihood by selling the vegetables they produce, in the nearby mandis, villages and towns,” Lal said.
Gram Pradhan Laxmi Narayan said that a large number of migrant workers had returned to the village after the lockdown. They are local youths who had migrated to Delhi and Mumbai in search of jobs. They were quarantined in school buildings. After completing the mandatory 14-day quarantine, they agreed to guard the vegetable. “We have erected temporary hutments for their next 14-day quarantine as directed by the district administration,” he said.
“The cost of the transportation of the vegetable is cutting into profit, yet we hope that during lockdown when all the activities are closed, we can make a little earning,” Narayan said.
The district administration officers in Jalaun and Hamirpur districts said orders have been issued to police personnel to permit farmers to transport vegetables, grain and other agriculture produce to the markets. The farmers have been directed to follow lockdown protocols: to cover their face with a mask, wash hands with soap, and practise social distancing in the markets, or while working in the fields, the officers said.
Rama Kewat, a native of Hasudi village in Hamirpur district, said that a check on mining will promote the fishery business as well. The illegal mining by sand contractors had made an adverse impact on the ecology of the river. “Now, it’s improving fast. Soon, we will start supplying fish too,” he said.
Another villager, Dayashankar, a resident of Rinuwa village, said that the water table in the area has also improved after the ban on mining. Earlier, villagers had to walk long distances to collect potable water. “Now, the wells and hand pumps are filled with water,” he said. An officer in the state mining department, who did not wish to be named, said that there are around 2,500 mines in the state, including sand, stone and other minerals. After the lockdown, all mines are closed leading to a loss of revenue. The state government had set a target of Rs 4,400 crore revenue from the mining sector in the financial year 2019-20, but the department has collected Rs 1,900 crore till February.
“We were hopeful of reaching 2,300 crore by March end but the lockdown has hit our revenuecollection target,” he said.
The mining department had received information about the plantation activities by farmers on the river banks. “We are not stopping it, as the villagers are not indulging in any illegal sandmining activities. The local administration and police is monitoring their activities,” he said.
THE VILLAGERS PLANTED A VARIETY OF VEGETABLES AND CROPS. WITHIN A MONTH, THE VEGETABLES ARE READY FOR SALE IN THE MARKET. NOW, DURING THE LOCKDOWN, THEY ARE EARNING THEIR LIVELIHOOD BY SELLING THE VEGETABLES
■ The landless farmers in Rigwa Bujurg village in Hamirpur district who have planted vegetables on the bank of river Betwa after ban on sand mining during the nationwide lockdown.